Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Beginner's Guide to Disney's Tinkerbell 1/2 Marathon Weekend

So, you are running or planning on running the Tinkerbell 1/2 Marathon or brand new Pixi Dust Challenge for the very first time and it is your very first visit to Disneyland? Then you probably have some questions! I hope this beginner's guide helps answer some of your questions about the race weekend. I am by no means an expert, but I want to pass along what I have learned!

Last January was my very first visit to Disneyland, I have always gone strictly to Disney World. Let me tell you first, that while bearing the name Disney, they are two very different creatures!! :)

You can read my race re-cap here:

Expo and Neverland 5k
Tinkerbell 10k
Tinkerbell 1/2 Marathon

When planning for your Tinkerbell 1/2 Marathon weekend, the first thing you need to think about is the amount of time you wish to spend in Disneyland.

The Race Expo opens on Thursday, and because I am one of those people who like to be there right when the expo opens, we decided to fly in on Wednesday night, which allowed us to play in the park on Thursday morning and then hit the expo in the afternoon when it first opens. Many people who live in the area arrive to the expo, depending on which races they are running either late Thursday or early Friday. The expo is much less crowded than the Princess 1/ 2 Marathon Expo and offers much of the same merchandise, however, I think it may be a bit smaller.

Since my sister and I ran all three races, we planned on staying until Monday afternoon. This was enough time to do everything we wanted to do, as well as have time to just relax. There was not a minute of this trip that I felt rushed or like I wasn't going to miss out on something.

If you don't care about getting to the expo right when it opens, or if you are passing on any of the races,  I suggest arriving later in the week, as you will have plenty of time for parks around the races!

There are a few different airports that you can fly to in order to get to Disneyland, this is a big difference from Disney World. You can fly into LAX, John Wayne, or Long Beach. The John Wayne airport is the closest to the parks, but for me is usually the most expensive and always has the dreaded layover!! We found that flying into LAX was the cheapest and the most convenient for us.

Now, those of you who are Disney World regulars, are used to getting off your flight and onto the Magical Express. There is no such thing here. The closest thing is The Disneyland Resort Express which provides  transportation between LAX and the Disneyland Resort area — including Disneyland Resort and Anaheim Resort hotels. Reservations are not required, but there is a fee to ride.

We did not take this option as our hotel was not serviced by this bus. We instead took the Super Shuttle
which costs only $17 one way! You will have to make reservations for this shuttle, which you can do online. It was very easy to use, and only took about an hour to make it to our hotel. 

There are lots of other companies that provide shuttles to the Disneyland area, most with competitive rates. 

You can also, of course, rent a car and drive, but please note that you will pay around $20 a night for parking, and we did not really find it necessary to have a car during our time in Disneyland!

This was the question that I found hardest to get an answer to when I was first planning my trip. Because I am so well versed in the ways of Disney World, I was completely lost when it came to figuring out where to stay in Disneyland. 

The reason is, there are so many options!! Of course there are the Disney Hotels: the Disneyland Hotel, Paradise Pier and the Grand Californian. These are great hotels to stay at, and one day I would LOVE to stay at the Grand Californian, but I am a budget kinda girl, so we stayed "off property". 

"Off Property" is kind of a funny term here, because everything seems to be really close to the parks. When choosing a hotel I took a lot of care in finding the right location. I wanted a hotel from which I could easily walk to the start of the races, I don't like surprises on race mornings, and I wanted to know that I could make it to the start of the race easily on my own. I also wanted to be close to the parks, even though there is free transportation to the parks for racers that weekend, I again wanted to be able to get around on my own. Lastly, I wanted to be close to a grocery store, or somewhere that I could stock up on water and pre-race food. It is so nice to be able to eat what you are used to eating on a race morning (one of my pet peeves of Disney World races!). 

I really hate sharing my hotel, as it was the perfect hotel for the race, and I don't want it to be sold out when I want to make a reservation for 2015, but I have to share, because I love you guys and because the location of our hotel made for an amazingly easy race weekend!

We stayed at the Best Western Stovall's Inn, which was to our surprise quite a nice place! From the outside it looks old and gross, but the rooms are actually very nice. They all include a fridge and microwave, and plenty of space for a couple of racers and all their race gear (costumes!!). 

The best part however, was that the racer's village was right across the street. SERIOUSLY!! We were able to wake up, get race ready and walk to the bag check area in less than an hour. We only had to walk across the street and less than a block away was bag check and…..wait for it……wait for it……THE FINISH LINE!!!!!!!!!!! It was so amazing to finish a race and be back at your hotel (in the shower!) in less than 10 minutes!! 

The start of the 10k and the 1/2 marathon were only about 2 blocks from the staging area/finish line/bag check. Which made getting to the races a piece of cake! 

This hotel is located about 2 blocks from Paradise Pier, 3 blocks from the Grand Californian and about 4 blocks from the Disneyland Hotel (where the expo is located). 

We chose this hotel mainly because of its location to the finish/start lines of the 10k and the 1/2 marathon. The 5k, however, starts on Main Street in Disneyland, which is a bit of a walk from our hotel. 

In order to get to the parks from our chosen hotel, we had to walk to the Disneyland Hotel (about 4 blocks) and then through Downtown Disney. The entire walk takes about 35 minutes (?) but is very enjoyable! We loved walking through Downtown Disney everyday, and planned most of our meals in this area. There is also a Monorail station located in Downtown Disney, which takes guest right to Tomorrowland. 

I have to say that the walk from our hotel to the start of the 5k (and to the parks in general) is not nearly as long as the "death march" from the Epcot parking lot to the start of the Princess 1/2 Marathon! It is much more pleasant too!! :)

There are lots of hotels located around Disneyland, and it is very important that you research the location of the hotel with the location of the start and finish of the races. I didn't mind walking further to the parks, because of the easy walk to and from the races. It was for me, of course, a race weekend! The parks were just a perk!!

Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are the two parks that make up the Disneyland area, and if you are, again, a WDW regular, you will be shocked by the ease of visiting these parks. Both parks are small in comparison to WDW. I have heard that you can fit 3 Disneylands into the Magic Kingdom parking lot and still have room to park 300 cars!!! 

That being said, it is very crowded! I never feel too crowded by people in Disney World, but in Disneyland there were times I felt almost claustrophobic! 

While the layout of Disneyland is very similar to the Magic Kingdom, there are slight differences and some different rides! We spent a few hours each day in this park. But we really enjoyed Disney California Adventure. I think because it was something completely different! 

Disneyland and CA are separated by a plaza, which I would compare to the size of the bus depot at the Magic Kingdom (maybe?). You can seriously walk from one park to the other in a matter of 2-3 minutes, which makes getting a park hopper ticket completely worth it!

We went with the park hopper at the very last minute, and I am so glad we did! It is so easy to move from one park to another, and it is nice to head to the more open spaces of CA when Disneyland gets too crowded! We purchased a 4 day park hopper pass, and were very pleased with the our decision. Of course, because Disneyland and CA are so much smaller than Disney World, we had plenty of time in the parks, but it was nice to be able to take it slower and just have a relaxing visit. I think that you could see both parks in one day, but you would feel really rushed. If you are concerned about spending too much money, I would buy a two-day pass (not a park hopper) and visit one park each day. You will have plenty of time. If you can afford it, do the park hopper! :)

During this trip I completely fell in LOVE with Disneyland, I hate to admit it, but I think I like it more than Disney World (gasp!!). I like the smaller size of the parks and the general area, and this being my first Disneyland race weekend, I have to say that it felt more relaxed than WDW race weekends, and I felt much more in control of myself (I didn't have to rely on Disney as much!). Overall this was my favorite RunDisney weekend ever and I am looking forward to heading back in 2015!!  

If you are visiting Disneyland for the first time, I suggest you do your research, I know I spent at least a month researching all of my options, and I am sure that I came away with the best trip for me. My flight and hotel together were less than $500, which made me very happy (more money to spend at the expo!). 

Please leave me any questions, as I want this is be a living document, I will update and add answers to your questions!


katielookingforward said...

Hooray! My friends and i are doing princess for the first time and I considered doing tinkerbell as well, your post definitely makes me want to consider it!

Kristine Barnes said...

Katie, it is an awesome race!! You know that registration opens on the 12th and it will sell out fast!! Advance registration yesterday sold out in under 15 minutes!! Better make some quick decisions! Good luck!

Lauren said...

Great post! January was technically my 2nd time to Disneyland, but I hadn't been there in so many years I did not remember a darn thing lol. The good neighbor hotels are great, but man I would so love to stay at the Grand Californian someday! :0)